We are learning about sentimentality in my Victorian Literature class. Today it is ungodly hot: ninety-five degrees with humidity that covers you like a warm, wet blanket. We are studying Oliver Twist. In this section, thieves are convincing Oliver to steal. He falls to his knees exclaiming: Oh! For God’s sake let me go! Let me run away and die in the fields.
Sentimentality: the expression of extreme emotion; excessive, exaggerated. This is how my teacher describes it. She is average height, average weight. Today she’s wearing a long beige skirt with a green leaf pattern and a matching green sweater. Her silver hair is puffy and reaches the tops of her shoulders. She has a voice like a baby lamb; when she laughs I smile along, though I am not sure what’s funny. I wonder if she misses her husband—he lives on the other side of the world for half the year. I wonder, at night, if she longs for the simple things—hands that brush back strands of that silvery hair, dried lips that press softly against her powdered cheek.
My nights, especially the nights that I indulge in a glass or two of sweet, red wine I cry over the kisses I feel I’ve missed, sniffle at the feel of a stiff set of shoulders brushed up against my back. I remember hands touching skin, quiet smiles.
In class I brush through the pages of my textbook, feel the softness of the paper. I imagine what it would like to be a poor boy, alone. I wonder would it would be like to be a woman with silvery hair, hugging a pillow to her empty chest.
Sentimentality / sen – ti – men – tal – ity: excessive tenderness, nostalgia.